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Friday, June 29, 2012

Philly Tri- Climbing the Ladder

The Finish!
This past weekend I competed in Philadelphia as a stop in the Lifetime Fitness race to the Toyota Cup. This was my first time competing in the race and my first time in Philly, so I was not sure what to expect, but my training has been better and I was feeling good the week leading up to the race.  

Paul's Hard Rock Glasses!
My Home stay was with Paul Amos. He would also be doing the Philly Triathlon and it would be his first ever triathlon. Paul is also a word travel and I got to see his large selection of Hard Rock Cafe Glasses from all over the world. Very Impressive! He works at Penn University and lives right by the University as well, so I was able to do a run workout and see the famous stadium that holds the Penn Relays as well as explore the campus. This race was also a treat as I was able to have lunch with my old college friend Katie Driscoll who I had not seen since we graduated. When I first arrived Paul drove me on the bike course and I was able to see the famous Boathouse row were many of the top rowers in the country train and also the Art Museum and the famous Rocky Statue out front.  Paul had tickets to the Phillies baseball game, but we were unable to see it as when we arrived at the stadium the skies opened up and the game was rained out. That was alright as I was able to at least see the stadium. We headed back to Paul’s house to relax and enjoy a beer (he has a keg on tap at all times, how awesome is that).

Friday and Saturday was the normal pre race workouts and pro meeting and then it was off to bed early on Saturday night. But I was not able to fall asleep. I was awake for a long time. Why, I do not know, but it was a little frustrating. But instead of worrying about it I used the time to focus on my race strategy and to visualize the race in my head. Soon, before I knew it I was asleep and the alarm was going off at 3:30 am for the race start. Then, it was my normal breakfast and off to the race.

Philly is a point to point swim and also to keep the roads clearer for us we start at 6:30 am, 30 min before the first age-group wave. Because of the earlier start, this meant that it was an earlier morning (I am always up a minimum of 3 hours before my race). Following my normal race morning routine with warm up and transition set up, I was soon boarding the bus to drive us to the swim start. The bus I happened to hop onto was also with Cameron Dye, Sarah McLarty, Alica Kaye, and Sarah Haskins. It was a relaxed atmosphere as we joked about being younger and taking the bus to school. I am not sure if the age-groupers on the bus were really nervous or not as I think we were the only ones chatting. But it was a good environment to stay relaxed before the race. 10 minutes later we were at the race start and after a quick warm up we were lined up and ready to start.

You can see the Pro women behind me and to the left. 
The gun went off and I got into a quick tempo. Everyone was jocking for position and trying to get on the feet of Cameron Dye or Andy Potts, the two fastest swimmers in the field. Arms were clashing and bodies were bumping. As I was swimming I suddenly felt an arm come down on me. It did not feel like a bump, but as if the entire body came crashing down on me, trying to force me to the bottom of the river. At first I thought it was an accident that maybe he had tried to take a new route, but two strokes later it happened again and I knew it was no accident. When it happened a third time I fought him off and gave a shove back. After shoving him back it stopped, but it suddenly left me feeling very tired and we were only about 50 meters into a 1500 meter swim. A thought of panic went through my head, how was I going to race feeling like this. However, I quickly put it out of my head. I told myself to settle into a pace and recover. Sure enough I soon felt better and settled behind two others swimmers. Another guy was on my feet and we formed a pack of 4 in the swim. Soon we hit the turn buoy and headed into shore. It was about 25 yards from shore I suddenly saw a large group of pink swim caps, the caps the pro women, exiting the water in front of me. I knew something was wrong as they did not pass us and they started 1 minute back. It turns out they turned to early and cut a large section of the swim. I have heard of racers going the wrong way and adding to the route (read my blog on the Capital of Texas Tri), but never in such a large number. Since it was not the entire field as some women went the correct route, 8 women would be disqualified on the day.

As I ran through transition I passed several of the pro women who cut the course and the same happened early on the bike. This created a lot of congestion and made it hard to get around some of them early in the bike. Soon I was able to pass most of them and I had clear roads and I could focus on racing.

The Philly course it 2 laps with 4 hills on each lap or 8 total climbs for the race. Since I don’t have a lot of hills to train on where I live, I knew I would have to ride smart. When I hit the hills I focused on spinning up and attacking the down and the downs proved to be very fast! On many of the down hills I am not sure how fast I was going (I did not have a computer on my bike, I actually never race with one), but it was somewhere north of 40 mph as I was in my hardest gear and spinning.

About Half way through the bike I was not sure of my position, but I could see a group of riders in front of me. I knew I was making some time on them so I focused on trying to catch them. On the decent of the last hill (number 4 and 8 of the race) I came up on a turn to quickly and almost flew off the side of the road. If you ever need a quick wake up or to get your heart racing, take a turn to fast going 40+ mph and almost wearing nothing, it usually does the trick. On the second lap I was aware of the turn and took it with a little more caution. But as a result of my hard break I lost sight of rider in front of me and they got away as I never saw them again on the bike. A tactical error that I have no one to blame but myself.
Charging Hard Into Transition

I hit the second transition and my legs were feeling a little tired from the effort on the bike and the eight hills. I had a quick transition (I believe the second fastest on the day) and one of the other guys must have had problems because he was in transition when I entered and was still there when I left. I never saw him again.

The last push to the finish
The run course runs up stream on the road, then there is a U turn and it continues back past the transition to another U turn and then to the finish. A great course for spectators to see the race. Early on in the run I felt great. I had great leg turn over and I felt strong. I was not sure if it was because of the false flat on the run out and I wondered if I could hold the pace. I decided to just go for it and try to run some people down. As I came to the first turn around I counted the men in front of me. I was in 11th. One place out of the money and 9 and 10 were running together. Because of the speed of some of the guys running, I never thought I could run myself into a top 10 placing. I always thought I would have to swim and bike into the top 10 and then hold people off in the run. But I decided then and there it was time to climb the ladder, to start finishing higher and really race. It was time to think differently.  I went after them. I ran back toward transition and then out to the second half of the run. I continued to push. I was really hurting, but I still had some spring in my step so I kept going. I could feel the fatigue setting in and it was having an effect on my mental push. I slowed a bit for a second, but I knew I could not let up if I wanted to catch 10th, so I picked it back up. If I was forced to walk trying to catch the man in front of me, so be it. At least I put it all on the line.  On the next turn around I could see I was making up time on 10th, but I did not know if it would be enough as I was quickly running out of real estate, so I tried to make one more push.

 In the end I was not able to catch 10th place, I would end up finishing 34 second down to him (I started more than 1 minute down). Although I was not able to make up the time, I did end up out running several of the athletes in the top 10. Looking at my results, I noticed again, I lost too much time on the bike, but I also know it improved. This tells me I am making steps into the right direction and to continue to work. 2 minutes faster on the bike and I would have been fighting for 7th or 8th place. I am now feeling more and more confident and with little improvements here and there I know I can be fighting for a top 10 in most races and a spot in the money if I stay the course.  It’s not an easy road and the little improvements are hard to come by. However, as it has been said before, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.

After the race I did get to do one thing everyone who visits Philly should do. I went and got a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. I went to Pat’s, which is directly across from one of the other famous cheese steak places, Geno’s. It was so good and a great reward to a great race. 

Two famous Philly Cheese Steak Places are right across from each other  

        We went to Pat's!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Elkhart Lake Triathlon- Training Day

This past weekend I competed in the Elkhart Lake Triathlon. This race was not a "Pro' race by USAT. To be a Pro race you need a prize purse of $5,000. This had a prize purse of $1050. I ended up choosing this race for a couple reasons. First, it was a race I could drive up on Friday after work and then race Saturday morning and be in my own bed on Saturday night. I could use it as a training race and if things went well, I could earn a little money while I was at it. Also, I did this race several years ago and it was the second Olympic distance race I did.

Doing a training race simply means you don't back down in your training the week leading up to the race. You may take it easier the day before, but your main focus is not this race, but other races down the line. Of course this means you are not 100% and racing tired. Also, it gives you a chance to try something you have not tried in most races. In this one I was working on my nutrition. What could I take in and where during the race. The plan was one Gel pack on the bike about half way and one at mile 2 on the run. Normally I don't take any thing in other than water and Gatorade.

Dana came with me to the race. She was racing the sprint. We arrived Friday afternoon and I was able to get a couple short workouts in. We checked in and I checked the start list for the Elite wave. I was surprised to find at least 4 pro's on the start line (there may have been more, but 4 that I knew of). All of them are solid triathlete's. Top 5 get a prize purse so I knew if I wanted any money I would need to be up there. We got a bite to eat then we were in bed by 8:30. We had a little mishap in the middle of the night. Dana rolled over and smacked me in the face and I woke up with with a sore, fat lip (its Thursday, this happened Friday night and my lip is still swollen). Needless to say I did not sleep the best.

Saturday morning it was my usual breakfast, but I just did not feel like I could eat, so I did not have quite as much as I normally do. Then off to the race site to go through my pre-race routine. The sprints in this race went off first. This was great as I could see Dana off and wish her good luck. Then it was our turn. Our turn to sit around and wait. We were supposed to go off at 7:45, but I don't think we went off till 8am. This mostly left me anxious and I wanted to get started. I am usually sipping on my water bottle right before the race, but because of the delay I no longer had it and I had dry mouth at the start. There was no water around so there is nothing I could do. I just focused on the race at hand.

Soon we were lined up and ready to go. The lined us up in the water about mid shin and shot of the gun and we were off. It was a cluster and we had some good swimmers in the group. I took a line straight line to the second buoy while others took kind of a strange line to a sighting buoy. This allowed me to swim comfortably and without a crowd. We all ended up at the the 2nd turn buoy together and since other wanted to set the pace I just jumped right in and followed them. There was a pack of about 5 of us. I swam in the 3rd position most of the race. Toward the end two swimmers put in an effort to be out of the water first (there was a $100 bonus for the fastest swim, bike, and run). Since they were doing all the work I did not try to sprint past them. It just did not seem right to me. Also, I wanted to focus on the over all race. Of course I was also feeling a bit tired at this point, so maybe the first two reasons are just an excuse.

I came out of water in 4th and it was a long run to transition. When I say long, it took at least a minute plus just to get to the transition area and it was a windy run as well. At times I was hoping I was still going the right way. I had a quick transition and moved into 3rd and then I was quick getting onto my bike and actually moved up to first.

Elkhart Lake is a long bike (45K instead of 40K- about 3.1 miles longer than most Olympics) with some smaller hills and on this day it was hot and extremely windy. On the first small climb one rider passed me and I was in second. We rode like this for some time until Thomas Gerlach came flying by me. When he went by I remember saying to myself "h*ly Shi*t!" I could not believe how fast he was moving. After the race he would tell me he thought it was funny if he put in a really strong effort when he went by me. I laughed, but I remember during the race I did not think it was really funny.

On the way out we were fighting the wind. The way the wind was blowing, we were actually fighting the wind for most of the race, either head on or from the side. When we turned to come back I could feel the wind actually blowing the back part of my aero helmet where I thought it was going to twist on my head. With the temp rising, this made for a tough day on the bike. I focused on staying smooth on the bike. About half way through the bike I was passed by two bikers, but I also passed one, so when T2 arrived I was in 4th position.

I had another quick transition and I was soon on the hunt. I could see 3rd place in front of me and I focused on him. About mile 1.5 I moved into 3rd place. As I passed the guy in 3rd I patted him on the back, gave him some encouragement and told him to run with me. We would go after 2nd together. He tried to match my pace, but fell off.

Elkahart Lake is a tough run. They have two good climbs in it and on a hot day, it make is even tougher. After I moved into 3rd I had the first climb. I focused on quick feet to get up the hill and stayed relaxed. I saw Tom coming down the hill on the way back down and I reached my hand and gave a quick high five. The great thing about triathlons is, even though we are competing against each other, even on the race course, there always seems to be encouragement. I feel we are more focused on the effort and having a great race. Don't get me wrong, we all want to be beat each other, but most triathletes doing it with great sportsmanship.

After the turn to go back down the hill I knew I was about a minute down to 2nd. I was not sure if I could catch him, but I was going to try. I could see 2nd in front of me. Almost taunting me. I could not tell if I was making ground, but I was sure trying. Soon it was the next big climb. Same strategy as before, quick feet and staying relaxed. I could still see 2nd, I was making ground but not enough. I hit the top of the hill and charge down the other side. With the turns in the road I could not see him. Closer to the finish I heard someone yell that I was about 30 sec down. With less then a mile to go I knew that it was probably to much to make up. 3rd place was secure as 4th was not in sight. All I had to do was jog in it. So what did I do, I went harder. I figured I would give it one last chance to try to get up to 2nd. I was not successful, I ended up 3rd, but it was a good thing I put in that effort as to my surprise, I finished with the fasted run on the day. If I was to guess before the race I would have guessed maybe the fastest swim  (I was 4th) or maybe the fastest bike (6th), but never the fastest run. If I did not make that last effort I don't think it would have happened. It is a good thing I did as that gave me a $100 bonus.

I was hopping to win the race, but considering who showed up I was happy with my 3rd place finish. My run split was not my best, but I looked at some splits of runners who I know are a lot faster than me and I know they had some tough days, so I was happy in comparison. The bike I was disappointed in, but we are working on that and its getting better. As long as its getting better, then I am making gains in the right direction and I can't complain about that.

After the race I was happy to find out Dana finished 4th in her age-group. All in all. It was a good day for both of us. I really could not ask for anything more.